Hey all, looking for learning advice

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    • #8396

      Hey all, I’m new here and figured this would be the best place to ask this sort of question as everyone else seems to be.

      Anyhow, a bit of background info:

      From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a fascination with technology and how things work especially computers. While I was good with them from a young age, it never really truly took form until I was 14 and my mum got the first family PC. Within the first six months of tinkering, finding my way around problems, I was already at the stage where I was the unofficial computer guy at school helping teachers fix classroom PCs, sorting out software problems etc.  I had always has a fascination with hackers and was one of the first things I started researching when my mum got the internet.. it wasn’t long before I was messing around with Trojans doing things I shouldn’t be. I never really took it any further as I didn’t really have the time alongside my other interests but I was satisfied with impressing my friends.

      Once I finished school at 16, I was able to get my first job almost straight away as a Junior Technician for a decent sizes IT firm. While I learned a fair bit and initially enjoyed it, I became quite discouraged after quite a few of my older coworkers gave me a really hard time I assumed because of my age. Within the first three months, I quit the job and it left a bitter taste in my mouth about pursuing an IT career so I left it there.

      Anyhow ten years on, that interest has been slowly coming back and I’m now at the stage where I want to pursue an IT career again sometime in the not to distant future.  The passion for learning new stuff and tinkering has returned and I’m very eager to get started however I was hoping for a little guidance and advice  from people on here.

      Seeing as it’s been, I’ve decided to start almost completely from the beginning to fill in all the gaps in my knowledge I have. The only things I’m confident in is my Windows OS (not server) knowledge and computer hardware so pretty damn basic. My first three priorities are to get some experience with both Windows Server, Linux and grasp a good understanding of networking to CCNA level.

      Now my biggest problem is that I’m not much of a bookworm. I’ve always been a hands on kind of guy and learn much better this way. Now books are important and I’ve already got a few to go through like Odom’s CCNA study guides however despite all the reading I plan on doing, I want to be practicing what I’m learning as best I can so I’m not just a walking book.  Now I could go out and start buying some Cisco equipment and Windows Server OS etc however I’m fairly certain there are more cost effective solutions such as virtual machines and lab sims. Unfortunately though I don’t really know much about that sort of stuff yet and was hoping some people could point me in the right direction.

      Any info would be greatly appreciated.

    • #52728

      Oracle’s VirtualBox is  free virtualization solution you can use, and there are plenty of sites where you can download trial versions of OS software (including MS’s server code), to install and run in the VM’s, for your learning.  Some even have images already built.

      For router simulation and that sort of thing there are numerous PAID simulators, and there’s also GNS3, which is free, but requires you to find and use valid Cisco IOS images (you’re supposed to use your own, but there are a lot of them posted on the net, if you dig around a bit.)

      If you’re not into books, look into CBT’s.  There are some free out there, and some paid, but sometimes, if you’re like a lot of folks, SEEING the teacher / material in action is an easier way to follow it.

      Good luck, and if you need help, let us all know.  I’m sure that pretty much any questions you have, at this level, will be answerable by one of us.

    • #52729

      Following on from the GNS3 recommendation, take a look at the Free CCNA Workbook. They have instructions on setting up a small lab to accompany the workbook.

    • #52730

      So to disagree slightly with some of the others, you’re going to have to become a reader.

      One book to look in to, is Professional Penetration Testing

    • #52731

      Thanks for the advice, I’ll check the stuff out in a bit.

      Also chrisj, I never meant I was searching for alternatives to books, just something to supplement my reading. Reading is an integral part of most learning experiences, it’s just that when I spend two hours reading up on how to do something and understanding exactly what it is i’m doing and how it works, I want to be able to then go and do it instead of moving onto the next section.

    • #52732

      Virtual box is a good virtual platform. There is also proxmox ve if you have the hardware to support it. I brought it online last night in my home network it allows you to watch performance and other aspects of the environment and its Debian based so it’s free.


      Also everyone on here is very helpful. I’ve had a couple questions answered on here already!

    • #52733

      On the Windows side, virtualization is a no-brainer. I prefer VMware Workstation, but VMware Player and VirtualBox are fine if you want something free. You can also go the free route with vSphere Hypervisor if you have a dedicated system with compatible hardware. Get a Technet subscription; this will give you legal access to nearly every Microsoft product for around a few hundred dollars. This was invaluable for my MCSE/MCITP, as well as for the attack/defend scenarios later-on.

      It’s difficult to beat real equipment on the Cisco side. I believe Dynamips/Dynagen (and the GNS3 GUI that sits on those) will only go to IOS 12.x since there are protections built into IOS 15+. I’ve been out of the Cisco world for awhile, so that may not be 100% accurate, but that’s what I remember anyway. However, the 12.x feature set should still be enough to get acclimate to IOS basics. The lab sims may help you pass exams, but they’re really insufficient for achieving mastery over the material since they just mimic a portion of the functionality. It’s completely different to actual see IOS in action.

      If you can manage to read 1-2 hours per day, you’ll be fine. You learn a lot of these things the best by actually doing, but you also need to cover theory, foundation topics, etc.

    • #52734

      chrisj – I never said he wouldn’t have to read…  I simply gave some options to help get him moving.  He’ll most DEFINITELY need to read.  😉

    • #52735

      Hi aiBreeze,

      I am very much like you and don’t really enjoy reading much or get easy distracted when reading. I find the best way to learn is to get hands on and do it yourself make mistake and try things. What I done was setup a lab and then watched videos then try implement what I see in the videos then try other stuff and really understand why what I done worked or didn’t work.

      There are loads great video online that will tech you just about everything you want to know. I also agree sometimes you do need to do a bit of reading but I find video a better way to learn as I can watch it over and over it just sinks in more.

      You may want take look at
      youutube – lots CCNA stuff on that

      You also have things like CBT nuggets and there are not lots companies that do like intense training depending on if you want to spend any money.

    • #52736

      @aiBreeze In case you’re not aware the CCNA is changing this year.

      If you can’t follow the advice from ajohnson, this thread would suggest that you may still be OK using IOS 12 virtualized. However, I would encourage you to research this further yourself.

      The Stub Lab from the the link I posted earlier, offers free labs on physical equipment (Although it would appear they are currently unavailable whilst they update to IOS 15).

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